Do you want the maximum Social Security benefit of $4,555? Here’s the salary you need

(Keith Speights)

The countdown has begun. It’s only a matter of days before Social Security benefits start to rise. While any retiree who receives Social Security will enjoy a nice raise, some will earn more than others.

The maximum monthly Social Security retirement benefit is currently $4,194. That amount will increase to $4,555 in 2023. Do you want this maximum Social Security benefit? Here’s the salary you need.

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A not so simple answer

When you retire in 2023, your salary must be $160,200 to collect the maximum Social Security retirement benefit. That is the highest amount for which Social Security taxes are due.

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But making $160,200 over the next year won’t be enough on its own. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses your highest income over 35 years to calculate your retirement benefit.

No, you don’t have to earn a minimum of $160,200 during your career over 35 years. The Social Security payroll tax cap has changed significantly over time. However, because of this, there is not just one salary level you must achieve to receive the maximum monthly benefit of $4,555. Instead, there are 35 different salary levels that you must have achieved in the past.

The following table shows the maximum amount that will be taxed for Social Security for each year starting in 1973. You can see for yourself whether you have earned enough over 35 years to receive the maximum Social Security retirement benefit.

Year Revenue Year Revenue
1973 $10,800 1999 $72,600
1974 $13,200 2000 $76,200
1975 $14,100 2001 $80,400
1976 $15,300 2002 $84,900
1977 $16,500 2003 $87,000
1978 $17,700 2004 $87,900
1979 $22,900 2005 $90,000
1980 $25,900 2006 $94,200
1981 $29,700 2007 $97,500
1982 $32,400 2008 $102,000
1983 $35,700 2009 $106,800
1984 $37,800 2010 $106,800
1985 $39,600 2011 $106,800
1986 $42,000 2012 $110,100
1987 $43,800 2013 $113,700
1988 $45,000 2014 $117,000
1989 $48,000 2015 $118,500
1990 $51,300 2016 $118,500
1991 $53,400 2017 $127,200
1992 $55,500 2018 $128,400
1993 $57,600 2019 $132,900
1994 $60,600 2020 $137,700
1995 $61,200 2021 $142,800
1996 $62,700 2022 $147,000
1997 $65,400 2023 $160,200
1998 $68,400

Data source: Social Security Administration.

Another important condition

There is another important condition for receiving the maximum retirement benefit from Social Security that you should know about. You cannot take early retirement at the age of 62. You can’t even retire at your full retirement age, which is 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later. To earn the maximum $4,555 per month, you must wait until age 70 to claim your Social Security retirement benefits.

However, many Americans don’t wait until age 70. Only 10.2% do, according to a recently published article by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). That is usually not the best financial move. In fact, the NBER study found that claiming retirement benefits before age 70 resulted in a median lifetime loss of more than $182,000.

The maximum may not be enough

Striving to receive the maximum retirement benefit from Social Security is a laudable goal. However, the maximum may still not be enough to retire comfortably. The maximum monthly benefit of $4,555 for 2023 is $54,660 per year. That’s just 34% of the aforementioned $160,200 salary.

The reality is that most Americans will have to save for retirement in other ways rather than relying solely on Social Security. It is wise to start saving sooner rather than later. Regardless of when you plan to retire, the countdown is on.

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